June 5, 2019 • Written by Mario Dalessandro
The Kentucky Executive Branch Ethics Commission issued ordinary and emergency administrative regulations in order to meet the requirements of Senate Bill 6. The changes to the administrative regulations involve the procedures for filing lobbyist forms and statements of financial disclosure. […]
The Kentucky Executive Branch Ethics Commission issued ordinary and emergency administrative regulations in order to meet the requirements of Senate Bill 6.
The changes to the administrative regulations involve the procedures for filing lobbyist forms and statements of financial disclosure.
The commission established initial clarifications to help with the changes.
In the first clarification scenario, if a person filed an initial registration statement prior to July 1, 2019, then they will file the 2016 versions of the update forms during the upcoming filing period.
In the second clarification scenario, if a person files an initial registration statement after July 1, 2019, then they will file the 2019 versions of the update and termination forms during the proceeding filing periods.
There will be an open comment period from June 1, to June 30, with a public hearing on June 21.
June 4, 2019 • Written by Timothy Kilcullen
The Legislature adjourned sine die in the early morning hours of June 4. The final day of the session was spent passing a two-year state budget and multiple bills related to lobbying and campaign finance laws. Assembly Bill 452 imposes […]
The Legislature adjourned sine die in the early morning hours of June 4.
The final day of the session was spent passing a two-year state budget and multiple bills related to lobbying and campaign finance laws.
Assembly Bill 452 imposes more detailed registration requirements for lobbyists.
Additionally, the bill requires a supplemental registration to be filed for any changes to registration until the commencement of the next regular session.
The bill will become effective immediately if signed by Gov. Steve Sisolak.
June 4, 2019 • Written by George Ticoras, Esq.
On June 3, the 4th Session of the 41st Legislative Assembly of Manitoba, which began on November 20, 2018, adjourned until October 2, 2019. Bill 2, The Municipal Amendment Act (Strengthening Codes of Conduct for Council Members), received Royal Assent […]
On June 3, the 4th Session of the 41st Legislative Assembly of Manitoba, which began on November 20, 2018, adjourned until October 2, 2019.
Bill 2, The Municipal Amendment Act (Strengthening Codes of Conduct for Council Members), received Royal Assent on June 3.
The new law amends The Municipal Act to require a code of conduct for members of municipal councils be adopted through by-laws.
The code must include procedures for receiving and dealing with reports of contraventions, relevant sanctions, and training on the municipality’s code of conduct.
The new legislation requires each member of a council to undergo training.
Lawmakers plan to adjourn the Assembly again on November 7.
June 4, 2019 • Written by Mario Dalessandro
Gov. Jim Justice amended his proclamation for the First Extraordinary Session of 2019, adding a bill relating to the West Virginia Business Ready Sites Program. The special session was originally called to address improvements to public education and pay raises […]
Gov. Jim Justice amended his proclamation for the First Extraordinary Session of 2019, adding a bill relating to the West Virginia Business Ready Sites Program.
The special session was originally called to address improvements to public education and pay raises for school teachers.
The Senate has introduced the Student Success Act to address these issues.
The House is set to reconvene at 8:30 a.m. on June 17.
June 3, 2019 • Written by Joanna Kamvouris
The first regular session of the 57th Legislature adjourned on May 31 at 5 p.m, one week ahead of its constitutional deadline. Senate Joint Resolution 22 was among the bills passed, rejecting amendments proposed by the Ethics Commission during the […]
The first regular session of the 57th Legislature adjourned on May 31 at 5 p.m, one week ahead of its constitutional deadline.
Senate Joint Resolution 22 was among the bills passed, rejecting amendments proposed by the Ethics Commission during the legislative session.
The resolution rejected a revolving door restriction that would have prohibited elected state officers and chief administrative officers from lobbying for two years following their terms of office.
Additionally, the resolution rejected a proposal to provide examples of activities that are not considered electioneering communications.
Examples include news or feature reporting activities and candidate debates.
The Legislature is schedule to reconvene on Monday, February 3, 2020.
May 31, 2019 • Written by Jim Sedor
National/Federal A Hefty Donation to Trump’s Inaugural Comes Under Scrutiny AP News – Richard Laudner | Published: 5/27/2019 Real estate mogul Franklin Haney contributed $1 million to President Trump’s inaugural committee and all he has to show for the money is […]
A Hefty Donation to Trump’s Inaugural Comes Under Scrutiny
AP News – Richard Laudner | Published: 5/27/2019
Real estate mogul Franklin Haney contributed $1 million to President Trump’s inaugural committee and all he has to show for the money is the glare of a federal investigation. The contribution from Haney, a prolific political donor, came as he was seeking regulatory approval and financial support from the government for his bid to acquire the mothballed Bellefonte Nuclear Power Plant in Alabama. More than two years later, he still has not closed the deal. Haney’s donation to the inaugural committee is being scrutinized by federal prosecutors in New York who are investigating the committee’s finances. Their probe is focused in part on whether donors received benefits after making contributions.
Anti-Corruption Group Hits Congress for Ignoring K Street, Capitol Hill ‘Revolving Door’
The Hill – Mike Lillis | Published: 5/29/2019
An international anti-corruption group is criticizing Congress for what it considers an ongoing failure to restrict the “revolving door” between K Street and Capitol Hill. The Group of States Against Corruption, an offshoot of the Council of Europe of which the U.S. is a participant, charged that while Congress has taken steps to restrict influence peddling by sitting lawmakers, it has failed to put similar restrictions on those who migrate to the lobbying world upon leaving office. Watchdogs were quick to pile on, noting Congress has not enacted any new restrictions on the “revolving door” since 2007, when it adopted the Honest Leadership and Open Government Act.
Congressional Panel Calls for Lobbying Disclosure Reforms
The Hill – Alex Gangitano | Published: 5/23/2019
A bipartisan select committee is sending Congress a proposal on how to modernize the lobbying disclosure system. The Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress voted on recommendations they said would improve transparency for lobbyists, part of a larger package of congressional reforms the panel approved. The recommendations will be drafted into legislation and sent to the appropriate committees. Primarily it seeks to standardize how the disclosure system files and tracks the names of lobbyists, by giving each lobbyist a unique identifier. In addition, the House Clerk’s office would clarify and simplify the lobbying registration and disclosure process, to make filing the required paperwork easier.
Deceased G.O.P. Strategist’s Hard Drives Reveal New Details on the Census Citizenship Question
New York Times – Michael Wines | Published: 5/30/2019
After Thomas Hofeller died last summer, his daughter found hard drives in his home that revealed he played a crucial role in the Trump administration’s decision to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census. Hofeller was prominent in Republican circles as the architect of partisan political maps that cemented the party’s dominance across the country. Files on those drives showed he wrote a study concluding that adding a citizenship question to the census would allow Republicans to draft even more extreme gerrymandered maps to stymie Democrats. He wrote the key portion of a draft Justice Department letter claiming the question was needed to enforce the Voting Rights Act, the rationale the administration later used to justify its decision. Those documents have emerged only weeks before the U.S. Supreme Court is expected to rule on the legality of the citizenship question.
Emails, Letters Detail Prosecution’s Case against Greg Craig
Politico – Josh Gerstein | Published: 5/29/2019
Federal prosecutors have laid bare more of their most compelling evidence that former White House counsel Gregory Craig lied to and misled authorities about his work for Ukraine, but the newly disclosed proof also highlights one of the most glaring weaknesses in the government’s case. In court filing, prosecutors included copies of internal emails Craig sent to colleagues at his then-law firm Skadden Arps, as well as drafts of a letter he prepared for the Justice Department in response to its request that the firm register as an agent for Ukraine under the Foreign Agents Registration Act. Prosecutors said the letters and emails show Craig crafting a false narrative that understated his involvement in distributing to the media a 2012 report Skadden prepared on the corruption trial of Yulia Tymoshenko.
Faked Pelosi Videos, Slowed to Make Her Appear Drunk, Spread Across Social Media
MSN – Drew Harwell (Washington Post) | Published: 5/24/2019
Distorted videos of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, altered to make her sound as if she is drunkenly slurring her words, are spreading rapidly across social media, highlighting how political disinformation that clouds public understanding can now grow at the speed of the Web. The video of Pelosi’s onstage at a Center for American Progress event, in which she said President Trump’s refusal to cooperate with congressional investigations was tantamount to a “coverup,” was subtly edited to make her voice sound garbled and warped. It was then circulated widely across Twitter, YouTube, and Facebook. The videos raised concerns about the roles of digital manipulation, misleading videos, and misinformation in politics going forward, particularly in the lead-up to the 2020 election.
FEC Approves Free Cybersecurity for Campaigns Despite Influence Concerns
Lewiston Sun Journal – Joseph Marks (Washington Post) | Published: 5/23/2019
The FEC gave the go-ahead to a nonprofit organization seeking to offer free cybersecurity services to political campaigns, upending rules that typically consider such free services illegal campaign contributions. The agency’s reasoning was that it ordinarily bans such services due to the possibility people might try to cash in on political favors later. But in this case, the risk of Russian and Chinese hackers running roughshod over the 2020 elections is far worse. The nonprofit Defending Digital Campaigns, which made the appeal, now plans to run cybersecurity boot camps for staffers on presidential and congressional campaigns.
Freshman Lashes Out After House Ethics Rules Bar Promoting Bone Marrow Drive
Roll Call – Katherine Tully McManus | Published: 5/29/2019
U.S. Rep. Katie Porter learned recently that one of her constituents, Liyna Anwar, needed help finding a donor in her fight against myeloid leukemia. After her aides reached out to the House ethics committee, Porter learned she could not promote any of the nine bone marrow registry events happening in California on May 31, where Anwar’s possible match could join the database of donors. House rules include a blanket prohibition on lawmakers promoting events held by private entities, including nonprofits. That includes DKMS, an international organization that advocates for more people to register as blood stem cell donors. Now Porter is questioning whether rules designed to prevent misuse of taxpayer dollars need to be reviewed.
‘He Always Brings Them Up’: Trump tries to steer border wall deal to North Dakota firm
MSN – Nick Miroff and Josh Dawsey (Washington Post) | Published: 5/23/2019
President Trump has personally and repeatedly urged the head of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to award a border wall contract to a North Dakota construction firm whose top executive is a Republican Party donor and frequent guest on Fox News, according to four administration officials. Fisher sued the U.S. government after the Army Corps did not accept its bid to install barriers along the southern border, a contract potentially worth billions of dollars. Trump has latched on to the company’s public claims that a new design and innovative construction method would vastly speed up the project and deliver it at far less cost to taxpayers. The push for a specific company has alarmed military commanders and Department of Homeland Security officials.
Mueller Suggests Only Congress Can ‘Formally Accuse a Sitting President of Wrongdoing’
Anchorage Daily News – Matt Zapotosky, Devlin Barrett, and Felicia Sonmez (Washington Post) | Published: 5/29/2019
Special counsel Robert Mueller reiterated that his office could not clear President Trump of obstructing justice, asserting in his first public remarks about his investigation that federal prosecutors cannot accuse a president of a crime. Mueller, who noted he was closing his office and formally resigning from the Justice Department, said he hoped the news conference would be his last public comments and if he were compelled to testify before Congress, he would not speak beyond what he wrote in his report. He also said while Justice Department policy prohibits charging a sitting president with a crime, the Constitution provides for another process to formally accuse a sitting president of wrongdoing, a clear reference to the ability of Congress to begin impeachment proceedings.
Republicans Spend More Than $4 Million at Trump Properties
The Hill – Reid Wilson | Published: 5/24/2019
Republican candidates and campaign committees have spent more than $4 million at hotel, golf, and other properties that bear President Trump’s name since he was inaugurated in 2017. More than three dozen members of Congress have held fundraisers or spent the night at Trump properties. Watchdogs have raised concerns over the propriety of Trump profiting off businesses as foreign governments and corporate interest groups currying favor in Washington book rooms at Trump hotels. There is nothing in the Constitution that bans a campaign from spending money at a company that benefits a candidate. But those good-government groups say the mixture of business and politics creates a combustible potion. “The behavior itself is corrupting, and it’s creating corruption and the appearance of corruption,” said Meredith McGehee, executive director of Issue One, a group that advocates for ethics in government.
September Debate Rules Could Winnow 2020 Democratic Field
Washington Post – Michael Scherer | Published: 5/29/2019
The Democratic National Committee announced new criteria for the party’s September presidential debate that could dramatically winnow the sprawling field of 23 candidates, raising the stakes on the summer campaign season. To appear in the party’s third debate, candidates will have to earn two percent support in four party-sanctioned polls between late June and August. In addition, they will have to show they have attracted at least 130,000 donors since the start of the campaign, including at least 400 from 20 different states. As the race now stands, only eight candidates in the field would meet the two percent threshold in recent party-sanctioned polls. Many are also struggling to reach the donor requirements.
Transportation Secretary Failed to Sever Financial Ties to Construction Company
New York Times – Eric Lipton | Published: 5/28/2019
Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao failed last year to cash out her stock options in one of the nation’s largest suppliers of highway construction materials, despite a promise she had made to do so in a signed ethics agreement when she joined the Trump administration. Chao had served for about two years on the board of directors of the company, Vulcan Materials. She owned this stock because in April 2018 Vulcan paid her for her stock options in the company instead of cash. A Transportation Department official said there was no ethics violation because Chao continued to recuse herself from any agency decisions directly related to the company. Vulcan is mentioned as one of the stocks that would benefit from any big increase in federal infrastructure spending.
From the States and Municipalities
Arizona – Chevron Executive Is Secretly Pushing Anti-Electric Car Effort in Arizona
Arizona Republic – Ryan Randazzo | Published: 5/28/2019
A California lobbyist for Chevron Corp. is urging retirees of the oil company in Arizona to oppose electric-car policies there, saying the vehicles are too expensive for most people and should not be promoted. A handful of people who either retired from Chevron or from Unocal, which Chevron acquired in 2005, have used the form letter to urge Arizona Corporation Commissioners not to require electric companies here to build electric-car charging stations. Form letters are commonly used to lobby commissioners, but the secretive nature of this campaign has drawn criticism, including from a retiree who alerted commissioners to the lobbyist’s effort.
Arizona – Hot Mic Captures GOP Lawmakers’ Frustration with Colleagues Over State Budget
Arizona Republic – Rachel Leingang, Lily Altivina, and Yvonne Winget Sanchez | Published: 5/23/2019
Arizona House Republicans were caught on a hot microphone discussing how to penalize two of their colleagues for not going along with the state budget. An audio clip of the meeting features multiple members of the House GOP suggesting bills from two lawmakers not get hearings next year. The clip also suggests some lawmakers could be interested in pursuing an ethics inquiry involving state Sens. Paul Boyer and Heather Carter. “I’ve got kids …. Once you give in and there are no repercussions, you’ve encouraged all kinds of bad behaviors. There has to be repercussions of some kind,” House Ways and Means Committee Chairperson Ben Toma said.
Arkansas – Former Arkansas Senator Case Shows Gray Area in Ethics Rules
Arkansas Democrat-Gazette – Lisa Hammersly | Published: 5/26/2019
As federal prosecutors see it, a series of payments to former Arkansas Sen. Jeremy Hutchinson by former executives of Preferred Family Healthcare constituted bribery. Prosecutors say Hutchinson deposited the money before he filed an amendment to a bill that appeared to benefit the nonprofit. Hutchinson supporters have argued those checks and others like them were lawful compensation for services performed by the Little Rock lawyer outside of his legislative duties. After a string of corruption investigations targeted a half-dozen former state lawmakers, the Legislature has embraced new ethics-related laws. One focus has been a relatively unregulated practice in Arkansas politics: payments by lobbyists and their companies to lawmakers’ businesses, including their law and consulting firms.
Colorado – $120 Million in Requests and $40 Million in the Bank. How an Obscure Theory Helped Prioritize the Colorado Budget.
Colorado Sun – Brian Eason | Published: 5/28/2019
Midway through Colorado’s 2019 legislative session, the appropriations committees in each chamber faced backlogs totaling more than 100 bills carrying a cumulative price tag of more than $120 million. The supporters for each bill were fighting for a piece of the same $40 million that budget writers set aside. The limited pot of money forced unenviable decisions for the Democratic majority with the power to set spending priorities. To find an answer, Democrats attempted a novel approach to public policy: quadratic voting. The obscure economic theory is designed to do what seems impossible at the Capitol – limit the influence of politics and self-interest. The experiment made the Colorado House one of the nation’s first test cases for the theory in the political realm.
Illinois – Illinois Video Gambling Tax Hike Will Be Decided by Lawmakers with Financial Ties to the Industry
ProPublica – Jason Grotto (ProPublica Illinois) and Dan Mihalopoulos (WBEZ) | Published: 5/28/2019
With the Illinois General Assembly poised to consider a tax hike on video gambling, some key lawmakers and their family members have developed previously undisclosed financial connections to the industry, meaning the fate of any proposal could lie in part on votes of legislators with a stake in the outcome. These ties, coupled with campaign donations by the industry, reveal how video gambling operators are building political influence at a time when the state is desperate to identify much-needed revenue to balance the budget. Those operators hope to block a tax increase, pushing instead to raise the maximum bet and increase the number of machines allowed in each location.
Michigan – 50 States of Financial Disclosure: How Michigan stacks up
MLive.com – Lauren Gibbons and Taylor DesOrmeau | Published: 5/24/2019
Michigan is one of two states, and the only one with a full-time Legislature, with no requirement for state public officials to disclose basic financial information, including income sources, business investments, gifts, and travel compensation. The lack of financial disclosure requirements is one?of the biggest?reasons?Michigan ranked last?in a 2015 report that documented several facets of each state’s transparency laws. Although some form of disclosure is required almost everywhere else in the country, how those documents are tracked, enforced, and made accessible to the public vary widely. Experts say having the information available is a good step towards addressing potential conflicts-of-interest and corruption.
Michigan – Michigan Lobbyist for Polluter Wrote Law Easing Toxic Cleanups, Emails Show
Bridge Michigan – Jim Malewitz and Craig Mauger | Published: 5/29/2019
In a single year, a self-described “lawyer-lobbyist” went from working on behalf of a company accused of poisoning groundwater to writing a law that could weaken Michigan’s standards for pollution cleanups. A media investigation found attorney Troy Cummings last year represented Wolverine Worldwide in behind-the-scenes negotiations concerning litigation brought against the company by then-state Attorney General Bill Schuette over contamination from one of the company’s tanneries. At the same time, Cumings was involved with fundraising accounts tied to Schuette, who was running for governor. Emails also show Cumings, a lobbyist from Warner Norcross and Judd, later helped write legislation that makes it more difficult for state environmental regulators to update pollution cleanup standards for hundreds of chemicals.
New York – Connections Can Mean Business for Some Lobbyists, Records Show
Newsday – Michael Gormley | Published: 5/25/2019
Lobbyists and legislators said Bolton-St. Johns, Patrick B. Jenkins & Associates, and the Parkside Group are among what one veteran lobbyist called “the flavors of month” in New York’s $261 million lobbying industry – firms that attract clients and higher fees at least in part because of their relationships with state officials. There always have been a few lobbying firms with such relationships, which can ebb and flow with whomever is in power. But outside the system, there is concern. “It may be that money doesn’t buy politicians, but it certainly buys access and people without money don’t have that access,” said Peter Galie, professor emeritus of political science at Canisius College. “The appearance of power is a form of power.”
New York – ‘So Completely Compromised’: New York watchdog agencies Have a credibility problem
Gotham Gazette – Samar Khurshid | Published: 5/29/2019
Created to monitor the behavior of more than 250,000 public officials and to enforce state lobbying laws, the Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE) has become the epitome of New York state’s lax ethical oversight, and the agency’s opacity is a source of widespread consternation. As is the case with other watchdog entities, JCOPE must balance the privacy of individuals against its duty to inform the public and instill confidence it is effectively carrying out its work. By design, many of these agencies are not required to inform the public about the complaints they receive or are prohibited from doing so to prevent reputational harm against individuals or entities that may be the subject of a complaint. But good government groups say that must change in order to build trust in institutions, and the public would be better served if agencies provided more transparency about how they handle complaints and report on outcomes of investigations.
Tennessee – How a Large-Scale Effort to Register Black Voters Led to a Crackdown in Tennessee
Tulsa World – Amy Gardner (Washington Post) | Published: 5/24/2019
The Tennessee Black Voter Project took credit for turning in more than 90,000 voter registration applications in 2018. But the surge of forms that landed in the months before Election Day was chaotic and consuming, according to elections officials. Thousands of applications had errors or omissions, they said, and their workers were overwhelmed by the task of verifying all the forms. A new law that takes effect on October 1 will impose fines on groups that employ paid canvassers if they submit incomplete or inaccurate voter registration forms. The fallout is part of a national clash between the two parties over access to the polls – one fueled by efforts on the left to expand the voting pool and new limits backed by Republican lawmakers, who often echo President Trump’s unsubstantiated claims of widespread fraud.
May 29, 2019 • Written by Jim Sedor
Campaign Finance National: “A Hefty Donation to Trump’s Inaugural Comes Under Scrutiny” by Richard Laudner for AP News New York: “Airport Bidding’s Unclaimed Baggage” by Chris Bragg for Albany Times Union West Virginia: “Elections Commission Fine-Tunes New Campaign Finance Law” […]
National: “A Hefty Donation to Trump’s Inaugural Comes Under Scrutiny” by Richard Laudner for AP News
New York: “Airport Bidding’s Unclaimed Baggage” by Chris Bragg for Albany Times Union
West Virginia: “Elections Commission Fine-Tunes New Campaign Finance Law” by Phil Kabler for Charleston Gazette-Mail
Texas: “Texas Secretary of State Resigns After Leading Botched Voter Purge That Questioned the Citizenship of Almost 100,000 People” by Meagan Flynn (Washington Post) for MSN
California: “Should L.A. Curb Charitable Fundraising by Politicians? Council Members Aren’t So Sure” by Emily Alpert Reyes and David Zahniser for Los Angeles Times
Colorado: “$120 Million in Requests and $40 Million in the Bank. How an Obscure Theory Helped Prioritize the Colorado Budget.” by Brian Eason for Colorado Sun
Arizona: “Chevron Executive Is Secretly Pushing Anti-Electric Car Effort in Arizona” by Ryan Randazzo for Arizona Republic
Arkansas: “Former Arkansas Senator Case Shows Gray Area in Ethics Rules” by Lisa Hammersly for Arkansas Democrat-Gazette
New York: “Connections Can Mean Business for Some Lobbyists, Records Show” by Michael Gormley for Newsday
South Carolina: “SC Wildlife Agency Chief in Trouble with Governor, Regulators Over Seawalls Near Home” by Sammy Fretwell for The State
May 28, 2019 • Written by Jim Sedor
Campaign Finance National: “FEC Approves Free Cybersecurity for Campaigns Despite Influence Concerns” by Joseph Marks (Washington Post) for Lewiston Sun Journal Elections Florida: “Deputy Filed to Run Against Osceola County Sheriff in 2020. The Next Day, He Was Fired” by […]
National: “FEC Approves Free Cybersecurity for Campaigns Despite Influence Concerns” by Joseph Marks (Washington Post) for Lewiston Sun Journal
Florida: “Deputy Filed to Run Against Osceola County Sheriff in 2020. The Next Day, He Was Fired” by David Harris for Orlando Sentiinel
Tennessee: “How a Large-Scale Effort to Register Black Voters Led to a Crackdown in Tennessee” by Amy Gardner for Washington Post
National: “‘He Always Brings Them Up’: Trump tries to steer border wall deal to North Dakota firm” by Nick Miroff and Josh Dawsey (Washington Post) for MSN
National: “Distorted Videos of Nancy Pelosi Spread on Facebook and Twitter, Helped by Trump” by Sarah Mervosh for New York Times
Michigan: “50 States of Financial Disclosure: How Michigan stacks up” by Lauren Gibbons and Taylor DesOrmeau for MLive
Arizona: “Hot Mic Captures GOP Lawmakers’ Frustration with Colleagues Over State Budget” by Rachel Leingang, Lily Altivina, Yvonne Winget Sanchez for Arizona Republic
National: “Congressional Panel Calls for Lobbying Disclosure Reforms” by Alex Gangitano for The Hill
May 24, 2019 • Written by Jim Sedor
National/Federal 9th Circuit Rejects Challenge to Foreign-Donation Ban Politico – Josh Gerstein | Published: 5/16/2019 A federal appeals court rejected a legal challenge to Congress’ ban on most foreign nationals donating to state and local election campaigns. The Ninth Circuit Court […]
9th Circuit Rejects Challenge to Foreign-Donation Ban
Politico – Josh Gerstein | Published: 5/16/2019
A federal appeals court rejected a legal challenge to Congress’ ban on most foreign nationals donating to state and local election campaigns. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the ban, saying a “summary” U.S. Supreme Court ruling in 2012 upholding the foreign-donation prohibition left lower-court judges obliged to turn down all First Amendment challenges to the statute. But that high-court decision, issued without briefs or argument, dealt with a lawsuit focused on federal elections. Critics of the ban have said allowing it to extend into state and local political contests intrudes on the right of states and municipalities to control their own electoral processes.
A Conservative Activist’s Behind-the-Scenes Campaign to Remake the Nation’s Courts
Anchorage Daily News – Robert O’Harrow Jr. and Shawn Boburg (Washington Post) | Published: 5/21/2019
At a time when President Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell are reshaping federal courts by installing conservative judges and Supreme Court justices, few people outside government have more influence over judicial appointments now than Leonard Leo. He is executive vice president of the Federalist Society, a nonprofit group for conservative lawyers that has close ties to Supreme Court justices. Behind the scenes, Leo is the maestro of a network of interlocking nonprofits working on media campaigns and other initiatives to sway lawmakers by generating public support for conservative judges. The story of Leo’s rise shows how undisclosed interests outside of government are harnessing the nation’s nonprofit system to influence judicial appointments that will shape the nation for decades.
Bank CEO Charged with Bribing Manafort for Trump Administration Post
Politico – Natasha Bertrand | Published: 5/23/2019
A Chicago bank executive tried to bribe Trump campaign chairperson Paul Manafort with roughly $16 million in loans after the 2016 election in the hopes of scoring a top administration post, according to a federal indictment. Stephen Calk, then the chief executive officer of the Federal Savings Bank of Chicago, “sought to leverage his control over” Manafort’s proposed loans in order to obtain a senior administration position, said court documents. And Calk approved the loans even though he “was aware of significant red flags regarding” Manafort’s ability to pay back the money. The loans were first mentioned during Manafort’s Virginia prosecution on bank- and tax-fraud charges, when one of Calk’s colleagues described the potential quid pro quo during courtroom testimony.
Cohen Told Lawmakers Trump Attorney Jay Sekulow Encouraged Him to Falsely Claim Moscow Project Ended in January
MSN – Tom Hamburger, Ellen Nakashima, and Karoun Demirjian (Washington Post) | Published: 5/20/2019
Michael Cohen, President Trump’s former personal attorney, told a House panel during closed-door hearings that he had been encouraged by Trump lawyer Jay Sekulow to falsely claim in a 2017 statement to Congress that negotiations to build a Trump Tower in Moscow ended in January 2016. Cohen later admitted discussions on the Moscow tower continued into June of the presidential election year, after it was clear Trump would be the GOP nominee. Cohen’s closed-door testimony led Democrats to press Sekulow and other Trump family lawyers who were involved in a joint defense agreement for more information about work they did preparing Cohen’s statement. The lawyers have so far rebuffed the request, calling it a threat to the protection of communications between lawyers and their clients.
Confidential Draft IRS Memo Says Tax Returns Must Be Given to Congress Unless President Invokes Executive Privilege
MSN – Jeff Stein and Josh Dawsey (Washington Post) | Published: 5/21/2019
A confidential Internal Revenue Service (IRS) legal memorandum says tax returns must be given to Congress unless the president takes the rare step of asserting executive privilege. The memo contradicts the Trump administration’s justification for denying lawmakers’ request for President Trump’s tax returns, exposing fissures in the executive branch. Trump has refused to turn over his tax returns but has not invoked executive privilege. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has instead denied the returns by arguing there is no legislative purpose for demanding them. The IRS memo says the law “does not allow the Secretary to exercise discretion in disclosing the information provided the statutory conditions are met” and directly rejects the reason Mnuchin has cited for withholding the information.
Congressional Report: Purdue Pharma influenced World Health Organization’s opioid guidelines
Washington Post – Katie Zezima | Published: 5/23/2019
A new congressional report claims the World Health Organization’s (WHO) guidelines on treating pain were directly influenced by the pharmaceutical industry, including a set of directions for prescribing powerful painkillers that appear to have been taken from Purdue Pharma. The investigation points to evidence that drug makers and those who profited from the increased prescribing of opioids aimed to push the WHO into endorsing use of the drugs across the globe. The WHO provides health guidance worldwide. The report alleges wo WHO reports that provide guidelines for treating severe pain, one in adults and the other in children, draw directly from Purdue’s strategies on how to market opioids.
DC Circuit OKs Payment-Plan Rules for Campaign Donors
Courthouse News Service – Brad Katner | Published: 5/21/2019
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit will keep in place an installment plan for nearly $250,000 bequeathed to the Libertarian Party. When Joseph Shaber died in 2014, he left $235,000 to the Libertarian National Committee, the campaign arm of the party. While federal elections rules permit individuals to give up to $339,000 per year to such entities, that total comes with certain specifications. Shaber’s gift came with no strings attached, but the Libertarian Party says the $33,900 limit on general-expenditure donations forces it to collect the money in installments each year, leaving the rest in an escrow account. The party argued such limits are a violation of free-speech rights and spreading the payments out under the FEC-mandated plan would violate Shaber’s post-mortem wishes. U.S. Circuit Court Judge David Tatel noting Congress created donation limits to avoid political corruption, even in death.
Deutsche Bank Staff Saw Suspicious Activity in Trump and Kushner Accounts
MSN – David Enrich (New York Times) | Published: 5/19/2019
Anti-money-laundering specialists at Deutsche Bank recommended in 2016 and 2017 that multiple transactions involving legal entities controlled by Donald Trump and his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, be reported to a federal financial-crimes watchdog. The transactions, some of which involved Trump’s now-defunct foundation, set off alerts in a computer system designed to detect illicit activity, according to bank employees. Compliance staff members who then reviewed the transactions prepared so-called suspicious activity reports that they believed should be sent to a unit of the Treasury Department that polices financial crimes. But executives at Deutsche Bank, which has lent billions of dollars to the Trump and Kushner companies, rejected their employees’ advice. The reports were never filed with the government.
Elizabeth Warren Decries Big Money in Politics. Her Campaign Treasurer Embodies It.
Center for Responsive Politics – Lateshia Beachum | Published: 5/23/2019
U.S. Sen. Elizabet Warren has rejected traditional sources of campaign money, from PACs to lobbyists, in her bid for the White House. Everyone will have access to her, she says, not just wealthy donors. She has instituted “selfie lines” at rallies, and releases videos of herself personally calling donors who have contributed just a few dollars. But Warren has also selected for her presidential campaign treasurer a man whose contributions run counter to Warren’s statements, among the most emphatic among the more than 20 Democrats running for president, against big money in politics. Dubbed a “personal PAC machine” by The Boston Globe, retired software engineer Paul Egerman has quietly established himself as a key benefactor and rainmaker for Democratic political committees and liberal causes.
EPA Watchdog Suggests Agency Recover $124,000 in Pruitt’s ‘Excessive’ Travel Expenses
San Jose Mercury News – Juliet Eilperin and Brady Dennis (Washington Post) | Published: 5/16/2019
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) should consider recovering nearly $124,000 in improper travel expenses by former EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, the agency’s inspector general recommended. The findings, issued nearly a year after Pruitt resigned amid controversy over his spending, travel, and ties to lobbyists and outside groups, highlight the fiscal impact of his penchant for high-end travel and accommodations. Investigators concluded that 40 trips Pruitt either took or scheduled during a 10-month period were excessive and cost taxpayers $985,037. The “questioned amount” the inspector general’s office identifies for possible recovery is the $123,941 that taxpayers spent on flying both Pruitt and a security agent in first- or business class, instead of coach.
‘It’s Entirely Inappropriate’: Trump shot a political video on Air Force One
MSN – Colby Itkowitz (Washington Post) | Published: 5/17/2019
Seated behind a desk on Air Force One, the presidential seal over his left shoulder, President Trump shot a short video recently, blasting New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s entry into the 2020 race. “If you like high taxes and if you like crime, you can vote for him – but most people aren’t into that,” the president said to the camera. Trump’s use of taxpayer-funded transportation to post a political message raises some legal and ethics questions. But possibly the greatest crime, some experts say, is the breakdown of norms.
Judge Orders Public Release of What Michael Flynn Said in Call to Russian Ambassador
MSN – Carol Leonnig and Rosalind Helderman (Washington Post) | Published: 5/16/2019
A federal judge ordered prosecutors to make public a transcript of a phone call that former national security adviser Michael Flynn tried hard to hide with a lie: his conversation with a Russian ambassador in late 2016. U.S. District Court Judge Emmet Sullivan also ordered the government also to provide a public transcript of a November 2017 voice mail involving Flynn. In that sensitive call, President Trump’s attorney left a message for Flynn’s lawyer reminding him of the president’s fondness for Flynn at a time when Flynn was considering cooperating with federal investigators. The transcripts, which the judge ordered be posted on a court website by May 31, would reveal conversations at the center of two major avenues of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.
Judge Rejects Trump’s Request to Halt Congressional Subpoenas for His Banking Records
MSN – Renae Merle, Michael Kranish, and Felicia Sonmez (Washington Post) | Published: 5/22/2019
A federal judge rejected a request by President Trump to block congressional subpoenas for his banking records, dealing the latest blow to the president in his bid to battle Democratic investigations into his personal finances. The decision in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York could clear the way for Deutsche Bank and Capital One to hand over the president’s financial records to Democrats in the House. Trump’s attorneys could appeal the decision. But U.S. District Court Judge Edgardo Ramos said Trump’s lawsuit was unlikely to succeed.
Judge Rules Against Trump in Fight Over President’s Financial Records
Washington Post – Devlin Barrett, Spencer Hsu, Rachael Bade, and Josh Dawsey | Published: 5/20/2019
President Trump lost an early round of his court fight with Democrats after a federal judge ruled the president’s accounting firm must turn over his financial records to Congress as lawmakers seek to assert their oversight authority. Lawyers for the president are fighting document and witness subpoenas on multiple fronts, and Mehta’s ruling came hours after former White House Counsel Donald McGahn was directed not to appear before a congressional committee seeking testimony about his conversations with Trump. In his decision, Mehta flatly rejected arguments from the president’s lawyers that the House Oversight Committee’s demands for the records from Trump’s accounting firm, Mazars USA, were overly broad and served no legitimate legislative function.
Justin Amash, Tea Party Star, Earns Primary Challenge for Backing Impeachment
Washington Post – Isaac Stanley-Baker | Published: 5/20/2019
U.S. Rep. Justin Amash said President Trump engaged in activity worthy of impeachment, becoming the first Republican on Capitol Hill to break with the party’s line on impeachment. Amash’s announcement on Saturday came after he had finished reading the report prepared by special counsel Robert Mueller, as the lawmaker explained in a lengthy Twitter thread. On Sunday, it prompted an intraparty rival, Michigan Rep. Jim Lower, to declare he would run in the Republican primary next year for Amash’s seat. Amash’s survival may now depend on whether he has cultivated devotion among voters sufficient to override their loyalty to the president.
Women Strive to Close Gender Gap at Biz Groups
The Hill – Alex Gangitano | Published: 5/21/2019
Trade associations have made strides in gender diversity, with more women taking on prominent roles at industry groups. It is a trend advocates are pushing to build on. Women account for 41 percent of the chief executives or executive directors of trade associations. K Street observers are hopeful these trends will continue, especially with a record number of female lawmakers in the current Congress and growing pressure on the influence world to expand its hiring practices.
From the States and Municipalities
California – Brawl Erupts at Convention of Local Politicians, Roils Upscale Resort
Los Angeles Times – Adam Elmahrek, Ruben Vives, and Anh Do | Published: 5/20/2019
A conference of local government officials from California at the Renaissance Indian Wells Resort & Spa erupted into violence over when several attendees began throwing punches, with at least one person apparently knocked unconscious. It was not immediately clear who started the fight, but it involved members of the Commerce City Council and other public officials, according to a written statement from Mayor John Soria and several witnesses. Some witnesses said the melee involved more than seven people and included political consultants, government vendors, and elected officials from the Los Angeles area. One or more women were screaming, the sources said. “It was a hectic scene,” one witness said.
Mississippi – How Mississippi Lawmakers Gave $1.5 Million of Education Money to Weight Watchers
Jackson Clarion-Ledger – Giacomo Bologna | Published: 5/20/2019
Teachers in Mississippi shed pounds thanks to Weight Watchers courses paid mostly with state education money. But the biggest loser was taxpayers. Lawmakers gave Weight Watchers about $300,000 a year from 2011 to 2016, but documents from the Mississippi Department of Education show the voucher program at times needed about half that amount, or less, to operate. Weight Watchers never appeared in any education funding bills and never had a contract with the state. Weight Watchers paid $276,100 to lobbyist Beth Clay between 2010 and 2016. During that time, lawmakers directed nearly $1.5 million to New York-based Weight Watchers through a legislative side door.
Nevada – Where Women Call the Shots
Washington Post – Emily Wax-Thibodeaux | Published: 5/17/2019
Since Nevada seated the nation’s first majority-female state Legislature in January, the male old guard has been shaken up by the perspectives of female lawmakers. Bills prioritizing women’s health and safety have soared to the top of the agenda. Mounting reports of sexual harassment have led one male lawmaker to resign. And policy debates long dominated by men, including prison reform and gun safety, are yielding to female voices. A coordinated campaign of political groups and women’s rights organizations recruited women to run in Nevada. Emerge Nevada, said it trained twice as many female candidates ahead of the 2018 midterm election as it had in the preceding 12 years. Meanwhile, the election of Donald Trump mobilized Democratic women nationwide, including in Nevada, where women already held 40 percent of statehouse seats.
New Jersey – Governor’s Feud with Party Boss Rocks New Jersey Politics
Politico – Ryan Hutchins | Published: 5/21/2019
An intraparty fight among Democrats in New Jersey has turned into an open civil war, pitting the state’s novice governor against an old-school political boss who has ruled for more than two decades, and potentially reordering the political landscape in what has become a national Democratic stronghold. The protagonists are Gov. Phil Murphy, a former Goldman Sachs executive who pledged to clean up state government, and George Norcross, an insurance executive who is the state’s most powerful unelected official. Murphy launched an unprecedented public attack on Norcross, who is among the people targeted by an inquiry into the state’s multi-billion-dollar tax incentive programs. Norcross has responded by opening fire on the governor, breaking his typical silence to compare Murphy to the king of England and call him a “liar” and “politically incompetent.”
New York – A Cuomo Donor’s Nonstop Connections
Albany Times Union – Chris Bragg | Published: 5/19/2019
Beyond being a prolific campaign fundraiser, aviation magnate Adam Katz has himself been one of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s largest campaign donors. Katz has given Cuomo six-figure sums though a wide array of limited liability companies, prompting business rivals to allege he has had undue influence with administration agencies. State records also indicate a more unusual pattern: many people with ties to Katz – lawyers, business associates, an extended family tree – have contributed to Cuomo’s campaign in large, often identical amounts and on the same days. Aside from the gifts to Cuomo, many of those people had never contributed similarly large amounts to New York candidates.
New York – New York Passes Bill Giving Congress a Way to Get Trump’s State Tax Returns
MSN – Jesse McKinley (New York Times) | Published: 5/22/2019
New York lawmakers gave final approval to a bill that would clear a path for Congress to obtain President Trump’s state tax returns, injecting another element into the battle over the president’s refusal to release his taxes. The bill, which is expected to be signed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, will authorize state tax officials to release the president’s state returns to any one of three congressional committees. The returns – filed in New York, the president’s home state and business headquarters – would likely contain much of the same information as the contested federal returns, though it remained unclear whether congressional committees would use such new power in their investigations.
Oregon – Kate Brown’s Top Aides Went Into Overdrive Doing Campaign-Like Work During Heated Governor’s Race, Records Show
Portland Oregonian – Hillary Borrud | Published: 5/18/2019
Publicly, the governor’s office said there was a bright line drawn between the work of Kate Brown’s campaign, which was explicitly political and focused on her re-election, and the state-paid employees in the governor’s office, who are to administer state business. But newly released records show Brown’s state staff in fact shifted into overdrive during that period to lay out her policy positions and accomplishments on education and other central campaign issues. Her most influential aides orchestrated a series of “white papers” and planned public events designed to show her as someone who had gotten things done and had strong policy views, according to nearly public records.
Tennessee – Tennessee House Speaker Glen Casada to Resign Position After Sexually Charged Texts
USA Today – Joel Ebert and Natalie Allison (The Tennessean) | Published: 5/21/2019
Tennessee House Speaker Glen Casada will resign from his leadership post following a vote of no confidence by his Republican caucus amid a scandal over explicit text messages. His political support began to waver when his former chief of staff, Cade Cothren, was pressured into resigning after the release of racist texts and the sexually explicit messages, and Cothren’s admission that he used cocaine in his legislative office before becoming Casada’s top aide. Casada was included in one of the group texts with a racist message but has said he never saw it. Other allegations continued to pile up, ranging from accusations Casasda spied on legislative members to a colleague’s claim that Casada tried to “rig and predetermine” an ethics review regarding his controversies.
Virginia – Investigators Could Not Determine If Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam Is in Racist Yearbook Photo
Washington Post – Laura Vozzella and Jim Morrison | Published: 5/22/2019
A nearly four-month inquiry into a racist photograph on the medical school yearbook page of Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam was unable to determine whether Northam was in the image – which showed one man dressed in a Ku Klux Klan robe and another in blackface – deepening a mystery that threw the state government into chaos. But the investigation also found no evidence the photo had been mistakenly published in a yearbook section with Northam’s name and other pictures of him alone. The investigators, including a former state attorney general, noted, though, that they could not confirm “the origin” of the image. Northam spoke with investigators twice and told them he was “positive” he was not in the photograph.
Washington – ‘Gray Money’: New Washington law to lift the cloak on PAC funders
Seattle Times – Joseph O’Sullivan | Published: 5/19/2019
Washington’s transparency law has tried to help voters determine funders for PAC ads. On the advertisements, PACs must disclose their top five contributors who meet a certain dollar threshold. That could be an individual or an entity such as a corporation or labor union. But what happens when the donor is another PAC with a generic, soft-focus name? It is a tactic called “gray money” and it is a popular strategy around the nation for shielding the flow of money. Through a series of “nesting doll” PACs, campaigns or political parties can cloak donations by individuals, corporations, industry associations, or labor unions. Now, a measure passed by state lawmakers this year could aid voters by revealing some of the top donors or organizations behind the cryptic groups.
Washington DC – Clients of D.C. Council Member Jack Evans Had Interests Before D.C. Government
Washington Post – Steve Thompson | Published: 5/23/2019
District of Columbia Councilperson Jack Evans, one of the most powerful politicians in the city, has used his legislative position in ways that could benefit clients of his private consulting business, an examination of his record shows. Over several years, Evans has introduced legislation, championed projects and promoted tax incentives connected to his private clients. Some efforts have met with more success than others. Evans is the focus of an investigation by a federal grand jury, which subpoenaed records from the city related to Evans and his constellation of private legal and consulting clients. At least three of these businesses have had interests before the District of Columbia government.
May 21, 2019 • Written by Jim Sedor
Campaign Finance Massachusetts: “US Supreme Court Will Not Hear Massachusetts Campaign Finance Case” by Shira Schoenberg for MassLive New York: “A Cuomo Donor’s Nonstop Connections” by Chris Bragg for Albany Times Union Ethics National: “‘It’s Entirely Inappropriate’: Trump shot a […]
Massachusetts: “US Supreme Court Will Not Hear Massachusetts Campaign Finance Case” by Shira Schoenberg for MassLive
New York: “A Cuomo Donor’s Nonstop Connections” by Chris Bragg for Albany Times Union
National: “‘It’s Entirely Inappropriate’: Trump shot a political video on Air Force One” by Colby Itkowitz (Washington Post) for MSN
National: “Justin Amash, Tea Party Star, Earns Primary Challenge for Backing Impeachment” by Isaac Stanley-Baker for Washington Post
California: “Brawl Erupts at Convention of Local Politicians, Roils Upscale Resort” by Adam Elmahrek, Ruben Vives, and Anh Do for Los Angeles Times
Oregon: “Kate Brown’s Top Aides Went Into Overdrive Doing Campaign-Like Work During Heated Governor’s Race, Records Show” by Hillary Borrud for Portland Oregonian
Nevada: “Where Women Call the Shots” by Emily Wax-Thibodeaux for Washington Post
Mississippi: “How Mississippi Lawmakers Gave $1.5 Million of Education Money to Weight Watchers” by Giacomo Bologna for Jackson Clarion-Ledger
May 17, 2019 • Written by Jim Sedor
National/Federal At the N.R.A., a Cash Machine Sputtering MSN – Danny Hakim (New York Times) | Published: 5/14/2019 A review of tax records by The New York Times shows that, to steady its finances, the National Rifle Association (NRA) increasingly relied on cash […]
At the N.R.A., a Cash Machine Sputtering
MSN – Danny Hakim (New York Times) | Published: 5/14/2019
A review of tax records by The New York Times shows that, to steady its finances, the National Rifle Association (NRA) increasingly relied on cash infusions and other transactions involving its affiliated foundation, at least $206 million worth since 2010. The role of the foundation is among the issues being examined in a new investigation into the NRA’s tax-exempt status by the New York attorney general. At issue for investigators, tax experts say, would be whether that money was being used for charitable purposes, as required by law, and not to help finance the NRA’s political activities.
‘Being Governor Ain’t What It Used to Be’: How their road to the White House became an uphill climb
Governing – Alan Greenblatt | Published: 5/8/2019
Governors were once a dominant force in presidential politics, winning seven of the eight elections between 1976 and 2004. Those days appear to be over. In 2016, no fewer than 10 current or former governors ran for president. None of them came close to winning a major-party nomination. This year, the Democratic field is dominated by U.S. senators, while governors are at the back of the pack in the polls. Historically, governors fared well in national politics when voters were fed up with Washington, noted Saladin Ambar, a political scientist at Rutgers University. Yet the public’s trust in the federal government is near an all-time low, and governors are still failing to gain any traction.
Complaints Grow That Trump Staffers Are Campaigning for Their Boss
Politico – Anita Kumar | Published: 5/15/2019
A Trump appointee displayed a “Make America Great Again” hat at her Housing and Urban Development office. A top official at the Office of Management and Budget used his official Twitter account to promote President Trump’s campaign slogan. And White House Counselor Kellyanne Conway delivered a scathing and unprompted attack on Trump’s potential opponent, Joe Biden, during a television interview. Those three instances, all in the last few months, are just a few of the growing number of complaints since Trump took office that federal employees are using their platform to campaign for the president or his allies, a violation of the Hatch Act. In Trump’s first year on the job, formal complaints to the government office that oversees compliance with the 80-year-old law jumped nearly 30 percent.
Donald Trump Jr. Strikes Deal for ‘Limited’ Interview with Intelligence Committee
MSN – Maggie Haberman and Nicholas Fandos (New York Times) | Published: 5/14/2019
Donald Trump Jr. and the Republican-controlled Senate Intelligence Committee reached a deal for the president’s eldest son to return for a time-limited private interview with senators in the coming weeks, an accord that should cool a heated intraparty standoff. The terms of the compromise include an appearance by Trump Jr. in mid-June, with the questions limited to about a half-dozen topics and the time limited to no longer than two to four hours. Senate investigators are particularly interested in asking the younger Trump about the June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower with a Russian lawyer who promised “dirt” on Hillary Clinton, as well as about his knowledge of a proposed Trump Tower project in Moscow. Some Democrats have accused Trump Jr. of potentially misleading other congressional committees.
Duped into Making a Bogus Campaign Donation? Call a Prosecutor
Bloomberg Government – Kenneth Doyle | Published: 5/8/2019
It seems to be equally true that federal authorities are cracking down on grifters who live large on money Americans thought they gave to legitimate political campaigns, and federal authorities might be encouraging scammers by doing nothing about misleading appeals for political money. The first set of authorities work for the U.S. Justice Department. The other is the FEC, made up of two Democrats and two Republicans. When their views clash, it is a tie and nothing can happen. “The Justice Department has become the primary enforcer of campaign finance laws because the FEC is unable to do its job,” said election attorney Brett Kappel. A potential downside, he said, is that prosecutors focus on the most egregious cases that can lead to a criminal conviction, so many other cases can slip through the cracks.
Evidence of Illegal Campaign Donations by Boston’s Thornton Law Firm Found, Case Dismissed Anyway
Boston Globe – Andrea Estes | Published: 5/15/2019
Staff lawyers at the FEC found Boston’s Thornton Law firm likely used a phony program to repay partners for political donations, but the case was dismissed after commissioners deadlocked on whether to pursue it. FEC staff found extensive evidence that Thornton, a major supporter of the Democratic Party and its candidates, illegally reimbursed partners for more than $1 million in donations. But commission voted along party lines and produced a tie vote, which dismisses the complaint instead of opening a full-scale investigation. Now, the group that filed the complaint against Thornton, the Campaign Legal Center, is considering pursuing the matter in federal court.
Federal Election Commission Lays Bare Internal Conflicts and Challenges in Letter to Congress
Center for Public Integrity – Dave Levinthal | Published: 5/9/2019
The FEC’s four leaders are offering lawmakers clashing perspectives on the agency’s very purpose. The commissioners’ comments are part of 171 pages’ worth of responses to dozens of questions Committee on House Administration Chairperson Zoe Lofgren sent the agency. Lofgren has openly doubted the FEC’s ability to function as it struggles with deadlocked votes, internal conflict, chronic vacancies, and low morale. Her inquiries come at a time when “dark money” and the specter of foreign election interference have captured the attention of the public amid historically long and expensive federal campaign seasons.
How William Barr, Now Serving as a Powerful Ally for Trump, Has Championed Presidential Powers
Connecticut Post – Tom Hamburger (Washington Post) | Published: 5/14/2019
Embracing a theory that the Constitution grants presidents sweeping authority, Attorney General William Barr is part of a group of conservative intellectuals who have been leading the charge to expand the powers of the executive branch over the past four decades. The doctrine, which gained support amid a backlash against post-Watergate constraints on the presidency, is back in the fore as President Trump and Congress are locked in a bitter fight over the bounds of executive power. Back at the helm of the Justice Department, Barr is in a singular position to put his philosophy into action. Critics say Barr is providing the intellectual framework to enable Trump’s view of an imperial presidency and stonewall legitimate requests for information from Congress.
Rudy Giuliani Cancels His Trip to Ukraine, Blaming Democrats’ ‘Spin’
MSN – Kenneth Vogel (New York Times) | Published: 5/11/2019
Facing accusations of seeking foreign assistance for President Trump’s re-election campaign, Rudolph Giuliani announced he had canceled a trip to Kiev in which he planned to push the incoming Ukrainian government to press ahead with investigations that he hoped would benefit Trump. Giuliani, the president’s personal lawyer, explained that he felt as if he was being “set up” by Ukrainians critical of his efforts, and he blamed Democrats for trying to “spin” the trip. The Ukrainian trip raised the specter of a lawyer for Trump pressing a foreign government to pursue investigations his allies hope could help him win re-election. And it comes after Trump has spent more than half of his term facing scrutiny about whether his 2016 campaign conspired with Ukraine’s hostile neighbor, Russia.
Scrutiny of Russia Investigation Is Said to Be a Review, Not a Criminal Inquiry
MSN – Charlie Savage, Adam Goldman, and Nicholas Fandos (New York Times) | Published: 5/14/2019
The federal prosecutor tapped to scrutinize the origins of the Russia investigation is conducting only a review for now and has not opened any criminal inquiry. U.S. Attorney John Durham is broadly examining the government’s collection of intelligence involving the Trump campaign’s interactions with Russians. The additional details about the scope and limits of his role emerged a day after it was reported that Attorney General William Barr had put Durham in charge of scrutinizing the early stages of the Trump-Russia investigation during the 2016 election. The distinction means Durham for now will not wield the sort of law enforcement powers that come with an open criminal investigation, such as the ability to subpoena documents and compel witnesses to testify.
Trump and His Allies Are Blocking More Than 20 Separate Democratic Probes in an All-Out War with Congress
MSN – Rachael Bade and Seung Min Kim (Washington Post) | Published: 5/10/2019
President Trump and his allies are working to block more than 20 separate investigations by Democrats into his actions as president, his personal finances, and his administration’s policies, according to a Washington Post analysis, amounting to what many experts call the most expansive White House obstruction effort in decades. Trump’s noncooperation strategy has shifted from partial resistance to all-out war as he faces mounting inquiries from the Democratic-controlled House, a strategy many legal and congressional experts fear could undermine the institutional power of Congress for years to come. House Democrats say the administration has failed to respond to or comply with at least 79 requests for documents or other information.
Trump’s Lawyers Question Congress’ Power to Investigate Him, Battle House Over Demand for Financial Records
USA Today – Bart Jansen | Published: 5/14/2019
Lawyers for President Trump and the U.S. House clashed in federal court over the extent of Congress’ power to investigate him in the first legal test of Trump’s effort to block sprawling probes of his finances and private business. Trump wants a judge to prevent a congressional committee from obtaining financial records from his longtime accountant, Mazars USA. It is the first court test of how much information the half-dozen committees conducting investigations of Trump and his businesses might be able to obtain. Trump’s personal lawyer argued Congress was seeking the president’s financial information for what is essentially a law-enforcement purpose, which was outside its authority, rather to work on legislation. Douglas Letter, the general counsel for the House, argued that Congress has broad investigative authority.
Want a Bridge? Trump Blurs Line Between Governing, Campaign
AP News – Jill Colvin | Published: 5/15/2019
President Trump stood before a Louisiana crowd at an official taxpayer-funded event and tossed out an enticing promise. “If we win this election, which is just 16 months away, we’re giving you a brand new I-10 bridge.” Trump’s commitment drew cheers from his audience. But it generated immediate criticism from ethics experts who have already sounded alarms about Trump’s apparent willingness to put the federal bureaucracy to work for his own political gain. All presidents benefit from the trappings of the office. But as Trump heads into his re-election campaign, historians and observers are wondering just how far the president might be willing to go in using the levers of presidential power to energize his supporters and help bolster his election chances, especially if the polls are tilting against him.
White House Asked McGahn to Declare Trump Never Obstructed Justice
MSN – Michael Schmidt (New York Times) | Published: 5/10/2019
White House officials asked at least twice in the past month for the key witness against President Trump in the Mueller report, Donald McGahn, to say publicly he never believed the president obstructed justice. Trump asked White House officials to make the request to McGahn, who was the president’s first White House counsel. McGahn declined. His reluctance angered the president, who believed McGahn showed disloyalty by telling investigators for special counsel Robert Mueller about Trump’s attempts to maintain control over the Russia investigation. McGahn initially entertained the White House request. But after Meuller’s report was released, detailing the range of actions Trump took to try to impede the inquiry, McGahn decided to pass on putting out a statement supportive of the president.
Canada – Watchdog Warns Lobbyists About Partisan Fundraisers, Expressing Political Views
National Observer – Carl Meyer | Published: 5/13/2019
Federal Lobbying Commissioner Nancy Bélanger warned lobbyists in Canada to be careful about participating in partisan activities such as fundraising events and expressing personal political views in public, to avoid placing themselves in a conflict-of-interest. She delivered the warning in updated guidelines for lobbyists posted a few days after a significant court ruling that also appeared to expand the scope of the federal Lobbying Act. The new guidelines shift some activities that Bélanger’s office had previously considered to hold “no risk” into a new category she said does carry risks of placing a lobbyist in a conflict-of-interest situation.
From the States and Municipalities
Florida – Former Palm Bay Deputy Manager Dave Isnardi Arrested, Charged with Racketeering, Other Felonies
Florida Today – John McCarthy | Published: 5/10/2019
Former Palm Bay Deputy City Manager Dave Isnardi was arrested on charges of racketeering and conspiracy. Isnardi is the husband of Brevard County Commission Chairperson Kristine Isnardi. A second man, Jose Aguiar, a former candidate for the Palm Bay City Council, also was arrested. The arrest warrants show the FBI and Florida Department of Law Enforcement have been investigating allegations of corruption and undue influence on city officials in Palm Bay since at least 2015. Though not arrested or charged, the warrants allege city Councilperson Jeff Bailey had an addiction to oxycodone and former Councilperson Tres Holton had sex with prostitutes and used cocaine. It also alleges Holton obtained prostitutes for Mayor William Capote while the men were in Tallahassee.
Florida – NRA Pays Lobbyist Marion Hammer Big Bucks, But You Won’t Find That Disclosed in Tallahassee
Florida Bulldog – Dan Christensen | Published: 5/14/2019
The National Rifle Association (NRA) paid Tallahassee lobbyist Marion Hammer more than $250,000 last year in the wake of the Parkland school massacre. But that payment is not disclosed on quarterly compensation reports that lobbying firms and contract lobbyists are required to file with the Florida Senate. Hammer, both an NRA board member and a registered NRA lobbyist in Florida, has not filed any compensation reports with the state since at least 2007. During Hammer’s tenure with the NRA, the Florida Legislature passed the landmark “Right to Carry” law, allowing weapons, including handguns, to be carried in public in a concealed manner. She also helped secure many other pro-gun laws, including the “Firearms Preemption Law” that eliminated hundreds of gun-control ordinances in cities and counties across the state.
Georgia – Georgia Insurance Commissioner Indicted on Fraud Charges
AP News – Kate Brumback | Published: 5/14/2019
Georgia Insurance and Safety Fire Commissioner Jim Beck was indicted on federal charges of wire fraud, mail fraud, and money laundering that stem from alleged crimes that preceded his election. The indictment accuses Beck of devising an elaborate fraudulent invoicing scheme to defraud his employer out of more than $2 million over a five-year period just prior to his election. The charges relate to Beck’s time as general manager of operations for the Georgia Underwriting Association. The indictment says Beck used the money for personal expenses and to fund personal investment, retirement, and savings accounts, as well as his statewide election campaign. The indictment also says he used the funds to buy and improve personal rental property and for personal state and federal income taxes.
Louisiana – Why the ‘Most Egregious’ Ethics Case in Louisiana Remains Open Nine Years Later
ProPublica – Andrea Gallo (The Advocate) | Published: 5/16/2019
In 2010, the Louisiana Board of Ethics accused former state Sen. Robert Marionneaux Jr. of failing to disclose he was being paid to represent a company in a lawsuit against Louisiana State University (LSU). The lack of transparency was only part of the problem. Marionneaux offered to get the Legislature to steer public money toward a settlement, according to charges the board later filed against him. The money would also help pay off his contingency fee, which an LSU lawyer pegged at more than $1 million. The case is pending and Marionneaux has not been punished. Watchdogs and ethics advocates say the glacial pace of the Marionneaux case and its limited scope exemplify the weaknesses of Louisiana’s ethics enforcement system.
Massachusetts – New Rules Mean Chick-fil-A Is Now a Registered Lobbyist at City Hall – Along with Many Others
Boston Globe – Milton Valencia | Published: 5/15/2019
Under a first-of-its-kind lobbying ordinance that went into effect this year, more than 230 lobbyists, firms, and their clients have registered in Boston, and the list reads like a who’s who of players in local politics. The new regulations are intended to make public those who influence city business, especially at a time when Boston has been regulating burgeoning industries, such as cannabis and short-term rentals. Prior to this, only a handful of lobbying and law firms complied with a little-known and unenforced city ordinance that required them to notify the clerk’s office that they had be doing business with the city council. Any lobbyists or advocates who dealt with the city otherwise went virtually undetected.
Massachusetts – Regulators Slash the Dollar Amount Unions Can Donate to Candidates in Mass.
Boston Globe – Matt Stout | Published: 5/9/2019
The Office of Campaign and Political Finance (OCPF) released a new regulation that reduces how much unions and nonprofit groups can contribute to individual candidates in Massachusetts. It limits contributions to $1,000 per candidate, $5,000 per party, and $500 per PAC. Currently, labor unions can give up to $15,000 annually to a single candidate. Derided by critics as a loophole for unions, the $15,000 cap survived a challenge before the Supreme Judicial Court when the justices upheld the longstanding ban on direct corporate gifts. But the court implied the OCPF should review the regulation about the cap. The limits take effect May 31.
Michigan – Michigan Lawmaker Indicted on Bribery Charge Over Prevailing Wage Repeal Vote
Detroit News – Jonathan Oosting | Published: 5/15/2019
Michigan Rep. Larry Inman is facing federal charges for allegedly soliciting bribes and attempted extortion ahead of a 2018 vote to repeal the state’s prevailing wage law for construction workers. A grand jury indictment includes text messages from Inman that show the him seeking campaign contributions from the Michigan Regional Council of Carpenters and Millwrights union, which opposed the initiated legislation. Authorities are accusing Inman of unlawfully and corruptly soliciting those contributions in exchange for a potential “no” vote on the legislation, which he ended up voting for instead. “We only have 12 people to block it,” Inman said in a text to a union representative. “You said all 12 will get $30,000 each to help there (sic) campaigns. That did not happen, we will get a ton of pressure on this vote.”
Missouri – St. Louis Aldermen Push New Lobbyist Gift Limits, Campaign Donation Rules
St. Louis Post-Dispatch – Mark Schlinkmann | Published: 5/14/2019
A ban on lobbyist gifts of more than five dollars to elected city officials and restrictions on campaign donations from individuals or entities seeking city contracts are part of a set of ethics proposals to be introduced at the St. Louis Board of Aldermen. The package also bars contributions to candidates for city offices made with the intent of concealing the identity of the money’s source. The three city charter amendments, if endorsed by the board, would go before voters at the November 2020 election.
New Jersey – Will Murphy’s CV Deal a Death Blow to NJ’s Dark-Money Bill?
NJ Spotlight – Colleen O’Dea | Published: 5/14/2019
New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy issued a conditional veto of a bill that would have required certain independent expenditure committees to disclose their donors. The legislation required groups to disclose all spending over $3,000, and said donors giving over $10,000 must be listed. Murphy said because the measure applied to groups influencing legislation and regulations, it could go beyond the scope of disclosure allowed under the Constitution. The governor also said those who receive tax credits over $25,000 should be required to disclose donors, and any entity with $17,500 or more in contracts with a public body should disclose all contributions to outside advisory groups. Lawmakers can vote to agree with Murphy’s conditions, in which case it would become law. They could also try to override the veto.
South Dakota – Federal Judge Strikes Down IM 24 as Unconstitutional
Sioux Falls Argus Leader – Lisa Kaczek | Published: 5/9/2019
A federal judge struck down a ban on out-of-state contributions to South Dakota ballot question committees. U.S. District Court Judge Charles Kornmann issued an order declaring Initiated Measure 24 as unconstitutional because it violates “the First Amendment rights to engage in political speech and to associate with others to fund political speech.” It is also unconstitutional because it interferes with the “free flow of money” between people and entities from another state, Kornmann wrote in his judgment. Kornmann ordered that the state is barred from implementing or enforcing the law, which was scheduled to take effect July 1.
Tennessee – After Bragging About Sex at Party Fowl, Former Chief of Staff’s Tab May Have Been Paid by Glen Casada Donors
The Tennessean – Joel Ebert | Published: 5/15/2019
When Tennessee House Speaker Glen Casada’s former chief of staff boasted to his boss in 2016 about having sex with a woman at Party Fowl, the food and drink purchases made at the restaurant may have been paid for by campaign donors. The finding comes amid a larger review of spending by lawmakers, including Casada, who utilize PACs. The review highlights a loophole in state law that allows lawmakers to create PACs and spend thousands of dollars on items they would normally be prohibited from purchasing using traditional campaign funds. Casada faces calls for his resignation as he reels from a scandal involving a series of racist and misogynistic text messages sent by his former chief of staff, including the exchange about sex in a bathroom at a Nashville restaurant.
May 10, 2019 • Written by Joanna Kamvouris
The 123rd General Assembly adjourned at 5 p.m. Thursday after approving a resolution allowing lawmakers to reconvene for a statewide session beginning May 20. Concurrent Resolution 785 provides that the General Assembly meet in a statewide session to consider special […]
The 123rd General Assembly adjourned at 5 p.m. Thursday after approving a resolution allowing lawmakers to reconvene for a statewide session beginning May 20.
Concurrent Resolution 785 provides that the General Assembly meet in a statewide session to consider special matters including any vetoes by Gov. Henry McMaster.
Additionally, the Assembly will consider bills that have passed both Houses in different versions and are in a conference committee.
The General Assembly will return at noon on May 20 and continue until not later than 5 p.m. on May 22.
May 6, 2019 • Written by Jim Sedor
Campaign Finance Pennsylvania: “Dark Money Under Spotlight as Campaign Finance Law Changes Right Before Philly Primary” by Julia Terruso and Chris Brennan for Philadelphia Inquirer Elections National: “F.B.I. Sent Investigator Posing as Assistant to Meet with Trump Aide in 2016” […]
Pennsylvania: “Dark Money Under Spotlight as Campaign Finance Law Changes Right Before Philly Primary” by Julia Terruso and Chris Brennan for Philadelphia Inquirer
National: “F.B.I. Sent Investigator Posing as Assistant to Meet with Trump Aide in 2016” by Adam Goldman, Michael Schmidt, and Mark Mazzetti (New York Times) for MSN
National: “Watergate Had the Nixon Tapes. Mueller Had Annie Donaldson’s Notes.” by Carol Leonnig (Washington Post) for MSN
Indiana: “Casino Company Turned to State Lawmaker for Title Work. He Voted for Massive Gaming Bill.” by Tony Cook and Kaitlin Lange for Indianapolis Star
Kentucky: “‘He Is a Whiny, Off-Topic Social Media Troll.’ Why Bevin Banned Critics on Social Media.” by John Cheves for Lexington Herald-Leader
Maryland: “Baltimore Mayor Pugh Resigns After Month on Leave Amid Investigation into Her Business Deals” by Ian Duncan, Jean Marbella, and Luke Broadwater (Baltimore Sun) for MSN
New Mexico: “Padilla Claims AG Concealed Recording Device in Coffeepot” by Dan Boyd for Albuquerque Journal
California: “How Powerful Lawmakers Are Killing California Bills – Without a Peep” by Laurel Rosenhall for CALmatters
May 2, 2019 • Written by Jim Sedor
Campaign Finance Nevada: “One Month Left: Nevada Democrats still haven’t heard a single campaign finance reform bill” by James DeHaven for Reno Gazette Journal Elections Florida: “Former David Straz Staffers Say Nashville Consultant Played Big Role in Campaign’s Failure” by […]
Nevada: “One Month Left: Nevada Democrats still haven’t heard a single campaign finance reform bill” by James DeHaven for Reno Gazette Journal
Florida: “Former David Straz Staffers Say Nashville Consultant Played Big Role in Campaign’s Failure” by Charlie Frago and Christopher O’Donnell for Tampa Bay Times
National: “Congressional Democrats’ Emoluments Lawsuit Targeting President Trump’s Private Business Can Proceed, Judge Says” by Jonathan O’Connell, Ann Marimow, and Carol Leonnig (Washington Post) for MSN
National: “Mueller Complained That Barr’s Letter Did Not Capture ‘Context’ of Trump Probe” by Devlin Barrett and Matt Zapotosky (Washington Post) for MSN
California: “State Officials Keep Hiring Their Relatives. Will Newsom Crack Down on Nepotism?” by Patrick McGreevy for Los Angeles Times
Kansas: “Former Salina Senator Pads State Salary with Travel, Food Vouchers” by Tim Carpenter for Topeka Capital Journal
Ohio: “Ex-Dayton Commissioner, State Lawmaker Arrested; More Arrests Coming, Feds Say” by Laura Bischoff, Josh Sweigart, Thomas Gnau, Cornelius Frolick, and Mark Govaki for Dayton Daily News
Colorado: “Colorado Lawmakers Have a Dog Office for Dog Business (De-stressing)” by Kevin Beaty for Deverite
Massachusetts: “For Sale in the Pot Industry: Political influence” by Andrew Ryan, Beth Healy, Dam Adams, Nicole Dungca, Todd Wallach, and Patricia Wen for Boston Globe
New Jersey: “The Tax Break Was $260 Million. Benefit to the State Was Tiny: $155,520.” by Nick Corasaniti and Matthew Haag for New York Times